If Newcastle United continue their current ways, a similar finish next season to the top-10 slot they earned this time around is the highest possible outcome they can expect. They're simply not committed to doing what's needed to challenge for top six or a domestic cup. We're told that there is money to spend this summer.
But how much? And exactly what will it take to close the gap on the top six? Maybe 25-million pounds or double it if you want to push for that top four, maybe more. Whatever way you look at it -- Newcastle's squad as it stands would struggle to finish in the top 10 again next year.
Form in 2014 has been poor. Start next season the way Newcastle have ended this one and we could easily be talking about a relegation battle. Of course, if that was to happen then Mike Ashley could axe Alan Pardew mid-season or invest in four or five players in the January window like he did in 2013.
Either way it would mark more slow progress for the club since Ashley took over. The 2-1 defeat against Liverpool proved to be the conclusion on a season that left United in 10th spot.
Not a bad finish right?
Probably not to the outsider looking in. But for the insider looking out it has been earned in painful circumstances. Two narrow wins against Crystal Palace and Aston Villa plus a 4-1 win against Hull City on the day that Pardew headbutted David Meyler, plus the 3-0 victory over relegated Cardiff are the only wins to shout about.
Eighth became ninth, and ninth became 10th on the final day. It triggered Pardew a bonus for achieving a pre-season target and the Londoner is now likely to keep his job for next season. Under Ashley's care the Magpies have finished 12th, 18th, top of the Championship, 12th, 5th, 16th and now 10th since he took over in 2007. Pardew has won just over 37 percent of his games since taking over as boss in 2010.
And for Ashley that appears to be enough -- as long as Newcastle stay in the game in the Premier League. If he doesn't he'll move in another manager who's happy to play the game and clap to his beat. For now Pardew will be in charge and he's got thick skin too. He'll be happy to weather any storms that are thrown at him whether it be appointing a director of football above his head, bringing in a new coach or signing players he doesn't agree with.
With six years left on his contract, the time for Pardew to stand up and make decisions has been and gone. He'll always be the company man as far as Ashley is concerned. But 10th was enough to keep things going this season. Even if seven losses out of eight proved to be the way that the season ended in painful fashion.
Pardew ended the season at Liverpool with fans chanting "Pardew out" but he didn't appear to be deterred. Once again he blanked questions from the local media and ducked the question when asked if the season had been satisfactory. When asked if he was grateful to the owner Ashley for sticking by him, he terminated the Press conference and walked out of the room one last time after a season in which he has been pushed to the limit.
Newcastle will be back next season in the Premier League when the challenges and questions will start again. There will be no hiding place come August. By then Pardew will be judged on the club's work in the summer window and exactly what type of start he makes in the Premier League next season.
If it's solid and keeps Newcastle in the middle of the table he'll be likely to stay on. Losing to Sunderland or being knocked out of cups doesn't worry his board. As long as Newcastle stay in the Premier League, pick up the TV money and operate at a slight profit, seasons like the 2013-14 campaign will continue at St James' Park.